By Robert Gregory
Before I could be a Father, I was forced to be a litigant. On a bitter cold morning in early 2013, I hadn’t yet so much as held my newborn daughter when a process server was at my doorstep, shoving a protective order into my hands. Suddenly, what I’d assumed was my inalienable human right to be an involved, loving Father now tittered on the brink of being a crime. A grim reality that a disquieting number of American Fathers know all too well.
Each year, judges across the U.S. sign off on an astounding 2 to 3 million temporary restraining orders, the overwhelming majority of which—85%, in fact—target men. Dive deeper into these statistics and you’ll find a staggering estimate that nearly 90% of these orders are exploited for strategic leverage during divorce and custody proceedings—a tactic bleakly termed as the “gamesmanship of divorce” by the Illinois Bar Journal. Yet, the devastation these orders inflict is hardly a game, not only for the Fathers alienated, but for our nation as a whole.
Indeed, before America can talk about crime, poverty, mass shootings, mental health, and suicide, the conversation has to begin with the role of fathers. “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection,” Sigmund Fraud surmised more than a hundred years ago. Today Fraud is proven right by many—if not most—of the problems that plague modern America.
In the United States, nearly a quarter of all children grow up without a father’s presence at home and, for African Americans, the number is a staggering 65%. That means 18.4 million children are living in fatherless households according to the 2021 U.S. Census Bureau. By 2023, it’s projected that number will climb to 24.7 million.
And so, America’s problems are about to get a whole lot worse.
The Silent National Crisis
Let’s start with crime. Criminologists and sociologists agree that fatherlessness is “among the most powerful predictors of crime rates.” Boys from single-mother homes are twice as likely to tread the path of delinquency compared to those who maintain strong relationships with their fathers. An alarming 80% of incarcerated youths grew up without a father.
Robert Sampson, Chair of the Department of Sociology at Harvard, concluded, “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.” This is especially true of violent crimes. Children from Fatherless homes are 11 times more likely to engage in violence, such as rape, which 60% of rapists raised in fatherless homes. To put it bluntly: the more interactions a child has with his or her biological father, the less of a chance that child ends up a criminal.
When it comes to mass shootings, seven of the deadliest were orchestrated by males under 30. Only one of those seven had been raised by his biological father. One just needs to take a quick glance at Wikipedia’s “list of U.S. school attacks” over the last year to confirm a harrowing pattern: an overwhelming majority involved young men whose parents were separated.
Moving on to teen pregnancy and teen childbearing, which, amongst the Western world, the U.S. records the highest rates, the statistics show—once again—is a result of girls growing up without a Father. The Family Research Council, a nonprofit research organization, recently cited a study that found “father involvement was the only factor that ‘decreased the odds of engaging in sexual activity and none of the other family processes was found to be statistically significant.’” Teen pregnancy extracts $11 billion from taxpayers annually due to elevated healthcare costs, foster care, increased incarceration rates, and lost tax revenue resulting from lower educational achievement and income.
Finally, the effect Fatherlessness has on a child’s mental health cannot be ignored. Children who grow up without a Father are twice as likely to drop out of school and twice as likely to commit suicide. The absence of a father also increases the propensity for substance abuse, with higher usage rates and related problems with alcohol, marijuana, and sexual activity. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reveals that 85% of children with behavioral disorders come from homes with only a mother.
Trial by Progressive Politics
Perhaps, however, the saddest statistic of all is that 43% of Fathers don’t consider their role to be as significant in their child’s personal identity. Despite more than six decades of social science that has clearly shown promoting Fatherlessness results in social dysfunction, America continues to encourage—or, at a minimum, tacitly endorse—alienating Fathers.
Despite the deleterious effect this has had on children, zealots of social equity view Fatherhood as a necessary causality in a culture war that demonizes traditional masculinity as toxic. And so, any talk of Men’s Rights is branded as lunacy of the misogynist, far-right variety, which ensures the “gamesmanship of divorce” remains stacked against Fathers.
The judicial abuses in my case are too familiar to far too many American fathers. As long as litigants are allowed to treat Family Court as a “game” without consequence, false allegations and malicious protective orders will continue to sever Fathers from their children’s lives and our Nation’s problems will only get worse.
To withhold from a child the nurturing love and guidance of a Father is to deny that child his or her full potential. Recognizing and honoring the essential role of fathers is not just an ideal; it is a necessity. It’s a cornerstone for a healthier, happier future for all.